We know you’ve got a lot going on this month – parties, family gatherings, a to-do list a mile long, a shopping list that’s making your head spin. It’s hard to imagine you or your kids having any time for the JOY of this season. We get it. And we want to help. Read on for some doable ways to help your family experience more joy. And stop by your local KidSnips and check a few things off your list – toys, games, and stocking stuffers of all kinds are now 20% off (with your $30 purchase through Dec. 31, 2023)!
Ah…December…month of holiday celebrations. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” we’ve heard, right?
But is it?
Sometimes the holidays bring extra stress on families. The bar gets set very high by all those giddy/giggly/super huggy families on the TV commercials we see, by the heart-warming holiday movies where the Christmas cookies are always fun to make and turn out great, where the kids never fight over who gets to light the menorah or the seven candles of Kwanzaa.
Too often, as parents, we feel the weight of all kinds of spoken and unspoken expectations at this time of year. The expectations of a “perfect holiday” in which everyone gets along, everyone gets the gifts they really want, and everyone happily helps with the cooking and cleaning. And though the weather outside is frightful (and you always seem to be searching for one missing glove), inside it’s so delightful as the family gathers around the fireplace to make music and knit scarves for the less fortunate while sipping hot cocoa, which no one spills on the couch.
And everyone is just filled with joy. All the time.
Yeah. Not so much.
Let’s be real: Joy can seem more elusive than ever this time of year.
And even though we sing about joy and send holiday cards with the word in big bold glittery letters across the front, sometimes we’re not even that clear on what joy is, and how to cultivate more of it in ourselves and in our kids.
What is joy, anyway? And why does it matter?
Joy and happiness are often used interchangeably, but actually they are more like second cousins on the emotion family tree.
Happiness is a feeling that often waltzes in when everything seems to be going well. It’s the wide smile when the holiday meal is flawlessly delicious, and all the dishes are done at the exact same time. Or when the gifts are wrapped just like that woman so skillfully demonstrated on TikTok.
Joy, on the other hand, whispers its way in, even when things seem far from perfect. Joy comes from our sense of meaning and from feelings of connection. Joy isn’t contingent on everything being all right. It’s the quiet drumbeat in the background of our messiest moments. It’s in the laughter that happens while baking cookies that turn out looking nothing like the Pinterest recipe photos. It’s in the pleasure of spending time with each other, while trimming the tree that’s not going to win any design awards. It’s found in the small acts of kindness more than the grand gestures. Joy isn’t a reward for perfection; it’s a gift found in the imperfections of our real and regular lives. Lost gloves and all.
As David Steindl-Rast has said, “Happiness is caused by things that happen around me, and joy is caused by things that happen within me.” And joy is important to cultivate in our kids because it’s what keeps us going even when the world seems to be falling apart.
Research echoes what our hearts already know: while joy is sometimes hard to define, it has profound effects on our well-being. And it contributes to our overall health and resilience. For children it can help them navigate life’s challenges, foster emotional intelligence and robust mental health.
How can we bring more joy into the holidays?
As parents, we’d love to help our kids find the kind of joy that brings contentment and peace and security. But that seems easier said than done. Here are a few ideas you might want to try this month. (And the good news…you don’t have to do any of them perfectly.)
1. Simplify to amplify the joy
First things first, let’s declutter those to-do lists! It’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of doing ALL THE THINGS. Instead, focus on the moments that truly matter. Pick a few activities that genuinely feel good and meaningful to your family and let the rest gracefully bow out.
And by the way, if your child hates to dress up or has special needs that make getting all dolled up difficult, and if trying to get the kids looking spiffy causes you to stress out, you might want to eliminate some of the dress up events on your calendar…or go to them, but let go of the need for your child to “dress perfectly” for the occasion. Sometimes the reindeer antler headband with pajamas is all you can manage…and yes, the people at the fancy choir concert dressed in fancy suits and fancy dresses will get over it (might even LOVE IT). And the “reindeer antler incident” will definitely become a part of the family lore that brings your family joy in re-telling in years to come.
2. Craft joy-giving family traditions.
Remember joy is born out of connection. And connection comes with shared rituals. And our rituals and traditions don’t have to be complicated (or weird) to draw you together. For example, a sports team’s group cheer before they hit the field is a simple ritual that connects them. So, this holiday, maybe you could start your own unique family traditions that bring joy. Whether it’s a holiday movie marathon, a holiday cookie bake-off, reading a chapter or two of a book as a family every evening before bed, or learning a new holiday song together to record and send to relatives and friends as a gift, these unique practices create a sense of “we’re all in this together-ness” that will be cherished for years to come.
3. Unplug devices to plug into joy.
Joy and togetherness go hand in hand. Unfortunately, our devices often keep us apart, scrolling the socials or playing games alone. And perhaps you’ve heard this famous quote from Teddy Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Our devices are also one way our kids (and us, too, at times!) can get caught in comparisons, which sends joy spiraling right down the drain.
One way to level up the joy this season is to make a practice of having “Family Unplugged” times throughout the month. You could make that unplugged time a family game night where you bring out some old and new board games, for example. Or what about a “Check out the Lights” night once a week where you drive around town or walk around your neighborhood and take in the outdoor lighting and décor going on (maybe even come up with a fun rating system)? Or you might want to make winter hikes a weekly family activity. Nature is another place where many people discover a profound sense of joy. And It’s a great way to teach your kids that going on a long walk is a great and affordable form of self-care and can help them feel better – even better than another cookie or video game.
4. Spread kindness and take in joy.
The holidays offer the perfect opportunity to experience joy by giving back. Whether it’s donating toys, volunteering at a shelter, shoveling a neighbor’s walk, taking cookies to a nursing home, or simply sharing a smile and a kind word, the family that gives back together gets good vibes together.
Another way you might want to spread kindness is by learning about and perhaps even celebrating some of the diverse traditions of the season. Discover more about holiday festivities from a culture unlike your own by reading books or watching videos together. Then you and your kids might want to actually participate in one or two as a way to deepen your understanding and respect for different cultural practices.
5. Discover the joy of local.
Let’s face it, sometimes during the holidays you can feel like you’re just shuffling from one big box store to another. Not only can these huge merch meccas be noisy, crowded, anonymous, and often overwhelming for your little ones, what you find there isn’t that unique. But when you shop local you get the joy of feeling connected to your own community. And the joy of doing something that actually helps your neighbors and your neighborhood by keeping your town vital and growing. And it also gives you the joy of giving gifts that feel more authentic. (Plus, it’s better for the environment!)
So, make a point this holiday of taking the kids with you to explore the neighborhood markets, engage with local artisans, and choose gifts handpicked by local shop owners.
Add your local KidSnips to that list, too. Not only are we locally owned and operated, all the products we sell, from board games to toys to hair accessories and hair care products have been carefully curated by our owner moms – and we only choose products we believe in, that are actually good for kids.
6. Choose joy over perfection.
We can’t say this enough… none of us will have the perfect holidays. No matter how hard we try. Because perfection isn’t possible. It just isn’t. But we CAN celebrate the beautiful messiness of the holidays. We don’t have to stress over the crooked decorations or the slightly burnt pie. This holiday we can choose joy.
As Anne Morrow Lindbergh once said, “Joy is a choice – a deliberate, conscious choice.” And one of the ways we choose joy is by being present. We know parents must multitask, but maybe this month, choose to give yourself a break from that as much as you can (even if you just make your goal 5 minutes a day…or 5 minutes a week!) and try to be truly present for the experience you’re in versus thinking about the next thing you need to do. Remind yourself (and your kids) to cherish the moments you’re in, and find joy in the simple moments of connection, togetherness, kindness, and wonder, however imperfect they may look.
Speaking of joy, here at KidSnips, we get so much joy from our connection with you and your kids. And we’re wishing you and your family a joy-filled, imperfectly perfect holiday season!